19 January 2019
Hong Kong companies are the second largest investor group in Myanmar. Photo:
Hong Kong companies are the second largest investor group in Myanmar. Photo:

Yangon and Hong Kong: A forgotten tale of two cities

To many people in Hong Kong, Myanmar might sound exotic and unfamiliar.

The fact remains, however, that the country, formerly known as Burma, and our city both used to be British colonies and have close ties with each other.

Yangon (also known as Rangoon), Myanmar’s largest city and former capital, was once a key trading post of the British Empire like Hong Kong and Singapore in the Far East.

Up until the eve of the Pacific War, Yangon and Hong Kong were sister ports and together formed a major logistics chain that contributed enormously to Britain’s war effort.

Apart from trade relations, there were also close civilian ties between the two cities. In fact, “since ancient times” Chinese have remained one of the biggest and most influential ethnic minorities in Myanmar.

However, shortly after Myanmar gained its independence, the military regime began to mount a nationwide anti-Chinese crackdown, forcing hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese to flee the country, many of whom eventually found sanctuary in Hong Kong.

Many of these Chinese-Burmese refugees later rose to prominence in business and politics in Hong Kong. 

Among them were former member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Xu Simin (徐四民), media and business tycoon Aw Boon Haw (胡文虎), and former Miss Hong Kong Loletta Chu.

Also, many medical doctors who had received training in the university of medicine in Yangon fled the country and settled in Hong Kong.

Many of these doctors became pioneers in the local medical sector and helped to train hundreds of thousands of young doctors in our city.

After years of isolation, Myanmar today has once again become a hotspot for global investors, thanks to the open-door policy under the new popularly elected regime.

In particular, Myanmar is becoming a key manufacturing center for the global textile and garment industries, with Hong Kong companies now being the second largest foreign investor in the country after China.

For example, Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who represents the textile and garment constituency in the Legislative Council, is among the first Hong Kong tycoons to invest in Myanmar.

Other Hong Kong companies such as Hutchison Whampoa Limited and the Hong Kong Shangri-La Group have also invested in port facilities and hotels in Myanmar.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 31

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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